The printing industry in the rapid change of the digital age.
Is print dead? This is a question that many people have asked in the age of digital media, where information and entertainment are increasingly consumed online. However, the answer is not so simple. Print media, such as newspapers, magazines, and books, still have a significant role to play in the modern world, even though they face many challenges and changes. In this essay, I will analyze the current state and future prospects of the print industry in the digital age, and give an assessment of how the print industry will change in the next few years.
The current state of the print industry
The print industry is not a homogeneous entity, but rather a diverse and complex sector that encompasses various types of products and services. According to Smithers1, a market research firm, the global print market was valued just under $800 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $843 billion by 2026. However, this growth is not evenly distributed across different segments of the market. Some segments, such as labels and packaging, are increasing their share at the expense of others, such as graphical applications and publishing.
One of the main reasons for this disparity is the impact of digital media on consumer behavior and preferences. Digital media offer many advantages over print media, such as convenience, accessibility, interactivity, personalization, and lower cost. As a result, many consumers have shifted their attention and spending from print to digital platforms, especially for news, entertainment, and education. For example, according to Statista2, a statistics portal, the circulation of daily newspapers in the United States declined from 62 million in 1990 to 28 million in 2018. Similarly, the revenue of book publishers in the United States decreased from $26 billion in 2010 to $22 billion in 2019.
However, this does not mean that print media are obsolete or irrelevant. On the contrary, print media still have many strengths and benefits that digital media cannot fully replace or replicate. For instance, print media offer a tangible and tactile experience that appeals to human senses and emotions. Print media also have a higher perceived value and credibility than digital media, as they are less prone to manipulation and misinformation. Moreover, print media can complement and enhance digital media by creating cross-channel marketing strategies that leverage the best of both worlds. For example, print media can drive traffic to digital platforms by using QR codes or URLs, or vice versa.
The future prospects of the print industry
The print industry is not doomed to extinction but rather undergoing a transformation that requires adaptation and innovation. The future of the print industry will depend on how well it can respond to the changing needs and expectations of consumers and clients in the digital age. According to Smithers3, a long-term forecast to 2030, there are four main drivers that will shape the evolution of the print industry: technology, sustainability, personalization, and experience.
Technology: Technology is both a threat and an opportunity for the print industry. On one hand, technology enables new forms of digital media that compete with print media for attention and resources. On the other hand, technology also enables new forms of print media that offer higher quality, efficiency, and functionality. For example, digital printing allows for more flexibility, customization, and automation than traditional printing methods. Digital printing also enables new applications such as 3D printing, smart packaging, and printed electronics.
Sustainability: Sustainability is both a challenge and a goal for the print industry. On one hand, sustainability is a challenge because print media have a significant environmental impact due to their use of paper, ink, and energy. On the other hand, sustainability is a goal because print media have the potential to contribute to environmental solutions by using renewable materials, reducing waste and emissions, and promoting circular economy practices. For example, print media can use recycled or biodegradable paper, vegetable-based or water-based ink, and carbon-neutral or carbon-negative processes.
Personalization: Personalization is both a demand and a supply for the print industry. On one hand, personalization is a demand because consumers want more control and choice over their media consumption. They want media that reflect their interests, preferences, and identities. On the other hand, personalization is a supply because print media can offer more customization and differentiation than digital media. They can create unique products and services that cater to specific niches or segments of the market. For example, print media can use variable data printing (VDP) or web-to-print (W2P) technologies to produce personalized content or designs.
Experience: Experience is both an expectation and an offering for the print industry. On one hand, experience is an expectation because consumers want more than just information or entertainment from their media consumption. They want media that engage their senses, emotions, and imagination. On the other hand, experience is an offering because print media can provide more than just text or images on a page. They can create immersive and interactive environments that enhance the value and meaning of the media. For example, print media can use augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technologies to add digital layers or dimensions to the physical media.
The assessment of the print industry’s change
The print industry will not disappear in the digital age, but it will change significantly in terms of its size, structure, and function. The print industry will become smaller, more specialized, and more integrated with digital media. The print industry will also become more innovative, more sustainable, and more customer-oriented. The print industry will have to reinvent itself to survive and thrive in the digital age.
The print industry will become smaller in terms of its market share and revenue, as it will face more competition and substitution from digital media. However, this does not mean that the print industry will become less important or influential. Rather, the print industry will become more specialized and focus on its core competencies and competitive advantages, such as quality, credibility, tangibility, and complementarity. The print industry will also become more integrated with digital media, as it will leverage the synergies and opportunities that arise from combining the best of both worlds.
The print industry will become more innovative in terms of its products and services, as it will adopt new technologies and applications that enhance its performance and functionality. The print industry will also become more sustainable in terms of its environmental impact, as it will adopt new materials and processes that reduce its footprint and emissions. The print industry will also become more customer-oriented in terms of its content and design, as it will adopt new strategies and techniques that increase its personalization and experience.
The print industry is not dead, but alive and evolving in the digital age. The print industry still has a significant role to play in the modern world, even though it faces many challenges and changes. The print industry has to adapt and innovate to meet the changing needs and expectations of consumers and clients in the digital age. The print industry has to transform itself to become smaller, more specialized, more integrated, more innovative, more sustainable, and more customer-oriented. The print industry has to reinvent itself to survive and thrive in the digital age.
Feel free to browse through the Graphic Design section on WE AND THE COLOR to find inspiring print projects created by some of the best designers from around the globe.
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